Two weeks ago, college football fans around the country were shocked to see University of Michigan quarterback Shane Morris stagger off the field after suffering a helmet-to-helmet hit, only to be sent back into the game by coach Brady Hoke. This questionable decision re-ignited the ongoing discussion about head injuries in sports and generated renewed calls for greater protections for athletes at all levels of sports.
What makes concussions so dangerous? Left untreated, concussions can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of balance and cognitive impairments that can last anywhere from a few days to months. Athletes subjected to multiple concussions can suffer Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which results in dementia, memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression.
So how widespread are concussions in sports? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.5 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States. About 65 percent of them occur in children and teens. More than 250,000 of those happen in high school football alone. But the actual number of concussions can be difficult to assess, as research suggests that athletes don’t always report head injuries or receive treatment for them.
Researchers are conducting studies to better understand the nature of brain injury in sports. Many of them are using (EEG) to assess brain activity before and after a head injury. Electroencephalography (EEG) measures the electrical activity of the brain using electrodes that are attached to the scalp. Research conducted so far indicates that EEG could be an important tool in helping to identify brain trauma so that athletes can receive treatment earlier and return to sporting activity only after it is safe to do so.
Great Lakes NeuroTechnologies produces the BioRadio, a wireless physiological monitor that measures signals, including EEG. We have a strong interest in helping researchers to develop research that will, hopefully, deliver better systems of diagnosing and monitoring concussions. It’s important to us, not just because we make a device that can help to develop this research but because we care greatly about the human cost of concussions. As a former athlete, a trainer and a parent with kids who participate in sports, I want to do my part to limit the damage that concussions cause. I want to make certain that researchers have the tools they need to conduct critical research into head trauma. I want to ensure that coaches and athletic directors have the research and tools so they can build effective processes to identify and treat concussions in players.
Join us on October 22 at noon for this month’s installment of our monthly webinar series titled EEG and Concussion Research. We’ll discuss the science of concussions and how EEG is being used in current research to identify head trauma in athletes. If you would like to learn more about concussions and how EEG can play a role in their detection and treatment, please feel free to contact me. If you can’t join us but want to learn more, feel free to contact me.